Thursday, 2 May 2013

More Tokyo Hiking - Takamizu-sanzan, Ōme


North across the Tama river from Mt. Mitake are the Three Mountains of Takamizu (Takamizu-Sanzan, 高水三山). Perched towards the top of the Ōme district amidst outlying suburbs, these peaks overlook lushly forested mountain slopes and rolling ridges, keeping the Tokyo sprawl at bay in the distance. At this time of year, walkers in these mountains are surrounded by thriving greenery, birdsong, and frequently colourful leaves and flowers, while the high points command broad views across surrounding peaks.




This is a moderate hike for anyone of average fitness, in easy access of Tokyo. The climbs and descents can be intense, but are reasonably paced, unsurprising, and broken up by comfortable sections of easier going – a good place to test your readiness for more challenging mountains. The route appears quite popular, but not so much as to be overcrowded or peace-shattering. Plenty of water, a light lunch, and good footwear are advised.



Takamizu-sanzan
Length: Approx. 9-10km
Hiking Time: Approx. 4-5 hours
Height: Begins at Ikusabata station, 230m. Main ascent is the initial climb to Takamizu-san, 759m. Some down then up to reach Iwatakeishi-yama (793m, highest point), then Sōgaku-san (756m). Sustained descent down to Mitake station at 245m.
Access (from central Tokyo):
Go to Ikusabata Station (軍畑駅) (Chuo Line or alternatives to Tachikawa Station, then JR Ōme Line to Ikusabata. Make sure your train is on the main line for Oku-Tama, and not the branch-off to Musashi-Itsukaichi!) Depending on where you start, this will take approx. 1h30-2hrs and cost approx. 800 yen (one-way).




Turn left out of Ikusabata Station's only exit. There is a small shop there where you can get basic provisions if needed. After a few paces you will cross the railway line, and should follow the signs to Takamizu-san (高水山).




The first half-hour or so consists of tarmac road, which progressively becomes narrower as you turn off onto smaller lanes. There is enough safe space to walk, and the signposting is generally good – there may also be a trickle of hikers to follow. A pleasant stream runs along most of the way, and you may see some locals fishing down there. Keep going, passing a small temple across to the right, until you reach the start of a path with an only slightly disturbing warning cartoon.


Turn right here.


The real ascent begins here. Go up the stairs past the top of the dam, and suddenly the city is far behind. A good hour or so of climbing gets you up through the woods, onto the ridge, and onto the approach to Takamizu's peak. Already some impressively wide views will be evident, though mostly of sugi plantations.



Just before the Takamizu summit, you'll find the Takamizu-san Jōfuku-in Temple. Its grounds are worth a wander around, and there are toilets here if needed. The summit proper is just five minutes further up the path.


The view from Takamizu-san.

You now have an hour or so of a straightforward down-along-then-up to the second peak, Iwatakeishi-yama (岩茸 石山), the highest point of the walk at 793m.



From Iwatakeishi you get a marvellous 180-degree view to the north. On the right, a strip of Tokyo sits on the horizon, with the skyscrapers of Shinjuku evident through the smog. Across the middle, the rolling ridges mark the boundary with Saitama Prefecture. And to the left, Kawanori-yama (1364m) marks the rise of the land into Oku-Tama.




Forty minutes further along is the third peak, Sōgaku-san (惣岳山). For the most part, this is a pleasant level path along the ridge, with breaks in the plantations offering intermittent views over neighbouring hills. That lasts until the final 0.1km, which gets suddenly so steep that you may have to climb with your hands, though the rocks and roots are sturdy and cooperative – potentially easier in fact than the ascents on foot. Atop them is the clearing at the peak, along with a small temple.


Deeper Oku-Tama beckons...




Finally, the descent down to Mitake Station is about one hour down a path that is oftentimes steep, but gives you plenty of gentler level sections too. On account of a hiking group of at least fifty people, this occasion granted a very Japanese experience: queueing in the mountains.





Through the final bamboo you come out at Mitake Station, which is also the set-off point for hiking on the eponymous mountain. From here you can take the Ōme Line back to Tokyo, but if time and energy remain, it takes only another hour to complete the circuit by walking back to the start point at Ikusabata Station, two stops down. Just follow the road east in the same direction of the railway.



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